D&D 5e: Treasure to XP Awards

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I hadn’t gotten deep enough into running 5e until recently to really look that hard into the treasure system and was surprised to find that it’s extremely loose. For many that’s a feature, but if you’re like me and run games suffering under a constant anxiety that you’re giving out way more or less treasure than the system actually expects, this may help.

I pulled my figuring from the following sources:

The Overall Math

Xanathar’s suggests that PCs acquire around 75 gp per level at tier 1, 150 gp per level at tier 2, 550 gp per level at tier 3, and 5,500 gp per level at tier 4. This means that a PC has acquired around 26,000 gp in cash upon reaching 20th level. Meanwhile, the magic item accrual with arbitrary values from within the correct range suggests around 135,000 gp worth of magic items by 20th level. The total value of a 20th level character could be around 160,000 gp.

That is conveniently really close to half of the earned XP by that point.

If you really wanted to stick to the exact breakdowns per level, it varies up and down over time: for most of the mid-levels, wealth awarded is closer to 10% of XP earned, with a huge catchup towards 50% in tier 4. But, for a very quick and dirty rule of thumb:

Place about 1 gp worth of treasure for every 2 xp you place.

I’d suggest doing this as broadly as possible, rather than per encounter. Total up all the XP possible in a dungeon, or even a whole scenario, divide by 2, and then use that as your budget for placing treasure. Individual encounters may have pocket change, while most of the loot is in hoards in places that make sense, just like the DMG suggests. Importantly, this gives you more budget for buying rolls on the treasure tables.

(Or you can just use the DMG system and use this to sanity check what the tables are giving out to see if you need to give out more or slow down a little on hoards.)

Treasure Tables and Cash

Some of your treasure should be in the form of cash (or gems, art, and other resources which are easily converted to cash). Per each tier:

  1. Around 33%
  2. Around 40%
  3. Around 25%
  4. Around 15%

Whatever’s left over goes into items. You can spend this directly to buy items and place them as appropriate. But if you want to roll randomly using the treasure tables, you can use the following breakdown.

Table Value (gp)
Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4
A 100 50% 30% 13% 0%
B 700 22% 26% 18% 0%
C 1,200 7% 15% 28% 17%
D 2,000 0% 3% 15% 35%
E 4,500 0% 0% 3% 24%
F 6,000 18% 19% 3% 0%
G 12,000 2% 5% 8% 3%
H 40,000 0% 1% 9% 6%
I 60,000 0% 0% 3% 15%

For example, a roll on table C uses up 1,200 gp of your budget (which is the approximate average value of results on the table) and should make up around 15% of the treasure tables you give out at tier 2.

Table H and I are pretty spendy, due to having extremely valuable items on them. One roll on them could make up a substantial amount of the treasure awarded, even at high level. This is part of why the overall level ramps backload a lot of the treasure value toward very high level. I’d suggest just giving out a bit more treasure at high level, and a lot more if you go past 20 (but, then, if you’re planning to run a campaign that will be 20th level for more than a minute, I assume all balance concerns go out the window at that point anyway).

D&D 5e: Items of the Runelords

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I converted a bunch of the gear my players had at the end of Rise of the Runelords for… reasons that may become apparent if I actually run the followup campaign I think I’m running soon.

Weapons

Koruvus’ Prize

Scimitar, rare

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with this silvered, magic weapon. It deals an additional 1d6 Radiant damage to Fiends. On a critical hit against a Fiend, you may immediately cast Banishment on that target as a bonus action with no components (the saving throw DC is based on your Charisma). Servants of Lamashtu have disadvantage on this saving throw.

This sword was an ancient human relic that was found by the goblin hero Koruvus and kept by him when he was corrupted by Lamashtu cultists. It was later wielded by a Varisian hero that used it to slay many fiends, awakening its nascent hatred of the breed. It glows in the presence of fiends and servants of Lamashtu, and stokes the wielder’s distaste for these targets.

Res Judicata

Longsword, very rare

You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls with this adamantine, magic weapon.

When you use an action to accuse a target that you can see of a crime, the blade ignites with cold blue flames that shed bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. You must genuinely believe the target is guilty of the declared crimes, and that they are sufficient to demand maiming or death, or the flames will not ignite. The target gains an empathic sense of what she is being accused of, even if she does not understand the language you use to speak the crimes.

While the flames are active, the sword does an extra 2d6 radiant damage to this accused target. The flames go out after a single hit to the target if she truly believes herself to be innocent of the declared crimes. They also end upon killing the target, or when the blade is sheathed. You cannot strike to incapacitate when the flames are active: when a target is defeated by a strike from the blade, that defeat almost always means death.

If the target has been officially sentenced for the crimes you accuse her of, and that sentence carries the death penalty, damage from the blade ignores any of the target’s damage resistances and immunities.

This sword was originally created by the church of Aroden, passed to the Order of the Crux after His death, and was taken by the Order of the Scourge in the Chelish Civil War. It bears the eye of Aroden on its hilt. It may have a role yet to play in the saga of Aroden. The wielder always feels a vague sense of loss at the death of Aroden, or perhaps due to the fact that the sword bore other powers before His death that are no longer capable of being accessed through attunement.

Shadow’s Pain

Shortsword, rare (requires attunement)

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with this adamantine, magic weapon. You can cause it to become sheathed in barely-visible electricity; when active, whenever you hit with an attack, the target takes an extra 1d6 lightning damage. This electricity’s glow is not sufficient to cast visible light, but it extends the range of Darkvision by an additional 10 feet for anyone that has Darkvision and is within 10 feet of you.

This sword has a mostly-dormant Runeforged Sadistic enchantment. When you critically hit with an attack made with this weapon, any target currently protected by an Abjuration effect must make a Constitution saving throw (against a DC of 8 + Your Proficiency Bonus + Your Charisma Modifier) or be Stunned until the end of your next turn.

Crafted by a Shoanti mage for a Gnomish hero, the weapon may gain additional powers as it is used for greater deeds.

Shadow’s Thirst

Shortsword, rare (requires attunement)

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with this adamantine, magic weapon. You can cause it to become sheathed in flickering shadows; when active, whenever you hit with an attack, the target takes an extra 1d6 thunder damage. This doesn’t make any sound, as it actually absorbs the noise of its impact, and the target is momentarily silenced while touching the blade (this is sufficient to muffle any screams from the blow, but not to prolong inability to communicate or cast spells).

The shadowy flickering of the blade allows you a retroactive feint: if you miss with all attacks made with the weapon this turn, you regain the action used to make the attacks. You cannot use the regained action to make attacks (but may use it for other actions in combat).

Crafted by a Shoanti mage for a Gnomish hero, the weapon may gain additional powers as it is used for greater deeds.

Sightstealer

Longbow, rare (requires attunement)

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with this magic weapon. You can cause any ammunition it releases to be sheathed in coruscating energy; when active, whenever you hit with an attack, the target takes an extra 1d6 damage. All damage from the attack is treated as Piercing, Lightning, or Radiant, depending on which would do the most damage to the target. When you critically hit with an attack made by this weapon, the target is Blinded until the end of your next turn.

This bow has a mostly-dormant Runeforged Dominant enchantment. When you critically hit with an attack made with this weapon, any target that is a Transmuter wizard or has the Shapechanger trait must make a Constitution saving throw (against a DC of 8 + Your Proficiency Bonus + Your Charisma Modifier) or be Paralyzed until the end of your next turn.

Crafted by a Shoanti mage for a Varisian hero, the weapon may gain additional powers as it is used for greater deeds.

Adornments

Belt of Hellish Perfection

Wondrous item, very rare (requires attunement)

This wide belt is made of a chain mesh of a variety of precious metals, each large link scribed with subtle runes of speed, strength, and health.

The belt has 8 charges. While wearing it, you can use an action to expend 1 or more of its charges to cast one of the following spells from it with yourself as the target: Cure Wounds (1 charge), False Life (1 charge), Enhance Ability (2 charges), Lesser Restoration (2 charges), Protection from Poison (2 charges). You may spend an additional charge when casting a spell from the belt to gain advantage on rolls to maintain Concentration.

The belt regains 1d6 expended charges daily. There is no ill effect for exhausting its available charges (though you cannot spend more charges than it currently possesses).

This belt is actually created by ancient, giant-sized creatures, for whom it was meant as a gorget, and is too large to serve as even a belt for small creatures or medium-sized creatures with narrow hips. The runes are foreign to the magic of Avistan, looking vaguely Tien in construction, and it is likely that this was ornamental war regalia for a powerful creature whose inheritors may want it back. The wearer can understand Tien speech, but not speak it, and can detect the presence of nearby Kami as an incessant, inarticulate whispering. The links regularly exchange positions when not being looked at directly, forming odd shifting patterns and glyphs in the rings of differently-colored metals.

Belt of the Claimer

Wondrous item, legendary (requires attunement)

The wide, golden buckle of this belt is inscribed with Thassilonian runes, particularly those of Greed. Its leather is made from the skin of the first Rune Giant. While wearing the belt, you gain advantage on any saving throws you make to resist any hostile spell of the Transmutation school. It absorbs any coins the attuned owner places into it, and can return them at need, and can hold up to 1,000 coins in this manner with no additional weight (this does not count as an extradimensional space).

The belt has 10 charges. While wearing it, you can use an action to expend 1 or more of its charges to cast one of the following spells from it with yourself as the target: Jump (1 charge), Longstrider (1 charge), Alter Self (2 charges), Enlarge/Reduce (2 charges), Levitate (2 charges), Spider Climb (2 charges), Fly (3 charges), Haste (3 charges), Water Breathing (3 charges). You may spend an additional charge when casting a spell from the belt to gain advantage on rolls to maintain Concentration.

The belt regains 1d6 expended charges daily. There is no ill effect for exhausting its available charges (though you cannot spend more charges than it currently possesses).

A symbol of power of Karzoug the Claimer, many who see it may be afflicted by a greed for the item and the status it represents, causing them to challenge the bearer for it. The wearer can hear the faint sound of a chiming bell when an onlooker is about to attack to claim the belt, granting Advantage on Initiative.

Bindings of the Black Monk

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

This fifty-foot long, foot-wide ribbon of silk was manufactured by the ancient Therassic monks, and still bears subtle embroidery with images from their school of martial arts, though it has darkened to near-black over the ages. It can be easily wrapped around the body and stays in place, forming loose clothing as placed by the wearer. The wearer has advantage on all rolls to escape a grapple, as the cloth automatically detaches and slips from hostile grasps to make it hard to get a grip upon the wearer.

The unarmed damage of the attuned wearer increases by a die size (to a d4 if the wearer does not otherwise have a source of unarmed damage). An attuned wearer who has access to Ki gains an additional point.

The ribbon is practically unbreakable, and can be used as rope to climb, tie up an opponent, lash objects together, and the like. It automatically releases when desired by the attuned owner, or when no part of it is within ten feet of the owner.

Boots of the Rune Law

Wondrous item, legendary (requires attunement)

These understated sandals are made of intricately-embroidered silk, with the pattern detailing, in Thassilonian, the entire legal system of Xin. When worn and attuned, you gain advantage on saving throws against any Enchantment effect designed to compel you to take an action that is illegal (including any Geas not applied as a properly mandated punishment).

When you are in a direct and immediate foot chase to pursue a fleeing fugitive, you cannot be slowed and ignore difficult terrain.

Additionally, they function similarly to boots of Elvenkind, Speed, and Striding and Springing:

  • Your steps make no sound, and you have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks that rely on moving silently.
  • When you use the Dash action, your walking speed is doubled for the movement granted by that action, and attacks of opportunity against you have disadvantage on the attack roll.
  • Your walking speed becomes 30 feet if it is not higher, and cannot be reduced below 30 feet by encumbrance or armor. You can jump three times the normal distance (though not further than your remaining movement would allow).

Due to its use in the legal system of Thassilon, the attuned wearer gains an intuitive understanding of the legal system of that ancient land, granting Advantage on any relevant rolls. The sandals never get dirty.

Cloak of Xin-Shalast

Wondrous item, legendary

Converted from the robes of Karzoug the Claimer, this deep-green cloak had its magic refocused for the use of non-wizards. While wearing it:

  • You gain advantage on all saving throws against spells.
  • You gain advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made to hide (it changes colors to blend into its surroundings).
  • You gain resistance against Cold. After you take Fire, Cold, Lightning, or Necrotic damage, the resistance of the cloak changes to that energy type until you take a short rest or you take another kind of energy damage (after a short rest, it reverts to Cold resistance).
  • You can always breathe, even underwater or in locations where there is no air.

By tightly wrapping the cloak around yourself, you may pull yourself and your carried possessions into an extradimensional space. The cloak collapses onto the ground. It is dark inside, and you can hear faintly in the outside world. Because you can always breathe, you are in no danger of suffocating. Whenever the cloak is disturbed, you are dislodged from the plane and refill your space, wearing the cloak. You can exit the plane at will, wearing the cloak in its current space.

Those who recognized Karzoug may recognize this cloak as a symbol of his power, and some may take offense at the alterations to it. The material never gets dirty, and is made of some strange transmuted material that grants it many of its properties.

Hellknight Plate

Plate, very rare (allows attunement by a Hellknight)

This suit of plate armor is made of adamantine: while wearing it, any critical hit against you becomes a normal hit. It is decorated with infernal ornamentation designed to intimidate criminals and enemies of Cheliax.

When attuned and wearing the armor, if you have been invested with the authority to wear it by the Hellknights, you have resistance to Fire and gain the benefits of the Devil’s Sight warlock investment (you can see up to 120 feet in darkness, even if it is magical).

Celestials will find the presence of this item repulsive. Even moral bearers are provided a subtle temptation to wickedness by the infernal emanations of the armor, which tends to make even the most fair-minded Hellknights overzealous in the enforcement of their duties. This is not helped by the fact that the armor also bolsters the bearer’s self confidence.

Artifacts

Sihedron Tome

Wondrous item, artifact (requires attunement)

The first Sihedron Tomes were said to have been crafted by a dragon in the service of Emperor Xin. Each of these books has a unique appearance, and hold an infinite number of pages for spellcasters to inscribe spells upon.

The book may only be opened willingly by its owner, and closes inevitably when it leaves the immediate presence of its owner. It can only pass on to a new owner when the old one is slain, or willingly gifted. Unless gifted, the knowledge stored in the book is forever locked away, perhaps destroyed, for its later owners.

It comes instantly to its owner’s hands when summoned, and can cross any space or dimension to do so. It cannot be teleported away so easily, of course, but is so secure that its owners rarely think much about leaving it around.

Any spellbook-using spellcaster who prepares spells from a Sihedron Tome, which potentially holds libraries worth of arcane knowledge, may prepare three additional spells (or five additional spells if no prepared spells are of schools that oppose any other in the Sihedron diagram; e.g., Divination plus up to three adjacent other schools).

Greed (Transmutation) – Sloth (Conjuration) – Envy (Abjuration) – Lust (Enchantment) – Pride (Illusion) – Wrath (Evocation) – Gluttony (Necromancy)

Major Beneficial Property: While attuned to this artifact, you can’t be Blinded, Deafened, or affected by Feeblemind.

Minor Beneficial Property: While attuned to this artifact, once per day you can use an action to cast Comprehend Languages.

Minor Detrimental Property: While attuned to this artifact, any spells you scribe into any other books or scrolls besides this tome immediately fade into illegibility. You may tear pages from the book to create scrolls, but they are recovered into the book whenever you summon it (you must tear them out again, but not recreate them) and will disappear upon your death like its spells.

Tattoo Magic

Mark of Wrath

Tattoo, very rare

This faintly-glowing tattoo-like rune of Wrath upon your forehead allows you to cast Fire Shield once per day. Additionally, upon your next turn after taking damage, if you hit the target that dealt that damage, you may expend a hit die as a free action to add that die to your damage total (the die only, not the Constitution modifier).

Order of the Scourge Investment

Tattoo, very rare

You may expend one hit die to generate the following effects (requires the listed type of action):

  • Vigilance: As an action, you gain truesight for one minute, and Darkvision to 60 feet (if you do not already have Darkvision). While this is active, you can get a vague sense of any threats in a room on the other side of a wall or door you are touching.
  • Onslaught: As a bonus action, until the start of your next turn increase your speed by 10 feet, gain advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws, and 1d10 to melee damage rolls.
  • Wrack: As an action, make a melee attack roll to touch a target. If hit, the target takes 1d10+Cha Modifier Psychic damage and must make a Constitution saving throw (DC based on your Charisma) or be Stunned for one round.

Therassic Tattoos

Tattoo, very rare

You may use an action and expend one or more hit dice to generate the following effects (to a maximum of half your hit dice spent on a single effect):

  • Heroism: You are immune to being frightened and gain temporary hit points at the start of each of your turns. The temporary hit points gained are equal to the hit dice you expended. This lasts for one minute and does not require concentration.
  • Fireball: You throw a ball of fire that explodes at a point within up to 150 feet. It has a radius of five feet for every hit die expended (to a maximum of 20 feet). Each target in the radius takes 1d6 damage per hit die expended (Dexterity saving throw for half). The difficulty of this save is based on your Charisma.
  • Fire Shield: You wreathe yourself in hot orange flames or cold blue flames (chosen at the time of activation) that shed bring light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. These flames last for one minute per hit die expended, and this does not require concentration but can be cancelled early if desired. While active, you have resistance to Fire (for cold flames) or Cold (for hot flames). Whenever a creature within 5 feet of you hits you with a melee attack, the shield erupts with flame. The attacker takes fire or cold damage equal to the number of hit dice you expended (based on the type of flames). You also add this damage to your unarmed attacks (including damage dealt while grappling).

Tattoos of the Traveler

Tattoo, very rare

As an action, you may expend one hit die to cast Alarm, Detect Poison and Disease, Longstrider, or Speak with Animals.

Converting Pathfinder APs to 5e

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I’ve been reading through the Angry GM’s stuff, particular his megadungeon series, and couldn’t help but think about how his spreadsheets for encounters per level per dungeon section might line up with the various Pathfinder adventure paths. That led me down a thrilling couple of hours banging away at a giant spreadsheet of my own comparing the encounters in an AP to the various XP and wealth progressions. I’ll start off with the rules of thumb, and get into some wonkery explaining my work afterward.

Converting Modules

First off, the bad news: there’s no 1:1 enemy conversion available.

There’s no way that 5e, with one Monster Manual, Volo’s, and a few other sources could approach the mass of opponent options in (at current count) six bestiaries, bonus monsters in every AP volume, multiple guides with NPCs, and the ability to attach class levels and templates to things. But even if they could, the math of 5e is just different for encounters than Pathfinder. For example, Pathfinder considers 12 zombies a level 6 encounter, while 5e considers them a level 5 encounter (and awards XP like a level 3 encounter, because 5e adds a difficulty premium for lots of monsters taking actions).

So you’re going to have to basically rebuild every encounter in the AP with the closest equivalents (of existing monsters or ones you custom make) that meet a new XP target.

But at least the math for doing so is relatively straightforward, since the expected encounters per level in Pathfinder is not that far off from the expectation in 5e.

Most Pathfinder adventure path modules include a target CR at the start of every room or encounter, which may be made up of multiple enemies of lower CRs within the text itself. Simply rebuild the room as a medium encounter of that level. Remember to apply the correct multiplier for multiple opponents.

For treasure awards:

  • Convert most magic items to their cash value (possibly as art) or consumables.
  • Grant half of all of the cash (including that from converted items). For example, if the encounter has printed loot of 100 gp, 300 sp, and a 500 gp value item, it instead gives 50 gp, 150 sp, and a 250 gp value art object (or consumables).
  • Only the most interesting magic items get converted to 5e equivalents. For those, try to give them a value equal to half their Pathfinder value based on the rarity values on page 135 of the 5e DMG. For example, a +3 equivalent shield is worth around 9,000 gp in Pathfinder, so gets translated to a strong Rare item or a weak Very Rare item in 5e (which, in this instance, checks out).

Expected Equivalencies

While the XP awards keep 5e characters within spitting distance of Pathfinder characters, it’s not perfect. In particular, 5e‘s first two levels go by much faster than Pathfinder‘s, while fifth level lasts much longer.

You can expect that:

  • Player characters will hit 2nd level significantly sooner than the AP intends, and will hit 3rd level around the time the AP planned for them to hit 2nd level.
  • They’ll be around a level ahead at all times until the module expects them to hit 5th level.
  • At that point, it starts to swing a little bit, but the PCs will usually be a few encounters behind where the AP expects them to be until 12th level.
  • They hit 12th level at pretty close to the exact right spot, then are close to in sync for the next couple of levels.
  • They pull ahead at 15th, and will pull further and further ahead as time goes on, to the point of hitting 20th level when a Pathfinder character would be early in 18th level. For most APs this won’t matter much, but you might want to pull back encounter budgets further past 15th level (or feel more free to skip non-plot-critical encounters).

The Wonkery

I made a long sheet with every encounter from the Mummy’s Mask AP, with a running total of XP per party member (for a four member-party) and a level lookup to make sure that the awards tracked where the modules suggested they should be. They did, and were usually pretty damned precise (almost as if the APs are created by carving up each level as an XP budget for each section of each module…).

Initially, I looked at just handing out 2/3 of the Pathfinder budget for each encounter, and that tracked as well or better until 10th level, when the XP charts diverge too much. Converting the encounter’s CR from the module to an equivalent 5e encounter somewhere between Easy and Medium created the best correspondence with the easiest-to-remember and process rule of thumb. By just targeting Medium, but assuming that there will be an overall loss of XP because of the difficulty multiplier for multiple enemies, it should be easy to remember how to convert without having to do any averaging yourself.

For treasure, I did a much less thorough comparison, and just looked at the stated Pathfinder wealth by level compared to the expected cash equivalent 5e income derived in this thread. I noted the suggested starting magic items for higher-level characters on page 38 of the DMG, and assumed those were relatively close to what you’d be expected to find in play, adding their value to the cash totals (it winds up only counting for about 15%).

The comparison of Pathfinder to 5e wealth has a ton of swing in it, but it gets pretty close to 50% for the last two tiers. Functionally, for the first tier the PCs will find a lot more wealth than the DMG expects (since Pathfinder frontloads more treasure), but there shouldn’t be a big enough difference by 7th level to justify a more complicated method of recalculating the AP’s treasure. It’s already going to be annoying enough to look up the value of minor magic items to turn them into cash prizes. Since I didn’t look super deeply at how the APs award magic items, I imagine that figuring out what to convert to cash and what to replace with a 5e equivalent will be more art than science.

Items of the Hedge

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We’re 15 sessions into my Beyond the Wall game at this point, and I’ve given out enough treasure that it’s time to reflect on my itemization rules as well as include some significant treasure that my players seemed to really like.

Minor Items

At this point, I’ve given out most of the example weapons on the minor weapons post:

  • They found a Blood Drinker axe buried in an ancient battlefield. They’re so creeped out by it that they might opt to not use it even if someone was a primary axe user.
  • I think they now have five or six Coffin Nails in various states of discharge (and one is currently pinning down a revenant at a crossroads, so it’s not really available). The primary user is the party rogue, who seems to enjoy managing the monthly discharge/recharge cycle now that he has enough of them that a budget of uses is a realistic thing to consider.
  • They found a Commoner’s Holdout knife at some point, and I’m not sure they remember they have it when it’s useful. Honestly, they don’t get seriously injured enough to make the trigger condition frequently available. Maybe I should try to change that…
  • The Landless Noble’s Family Weapon was a big help earlier in the campaign, when they stumbled on a demon that could only be hurt by magic. Overall, the infrequency of magic weapons seems to have helped keep magic-vulnerable monsters special for longer: because most enhanced weapons aren’t technically “magic” it makes the ones that genuinely are more special.
  • They recently got a Hedgecutter under less-than-ideal circumstances (off of the corpse of one of their higher level NPC allies who they’d had to kill because he’d been vamped). They haven’t gotten to use it to actually travel through the Hedge, but will soon, and probably would have loved to have it a few sessions ago when they had to run and hide from a Shambling Mound.
  • No Sidhe Swords have come into play yet, though they’re on the hex map to be discovered. The Fae Foundling in the party would probably love to get her hands on one, though she is normally a ranged combatant.
  • They recovered a Siegebreaker fairly early on (well, stole it from goblin storage and are hoping the owners don’t notice it). It’s being used by the Gifted Dilettante (rogue/mage), who shouldn’t really be in melee at all but, if he’s going to be, he might as well swing a really big weapon. He doesn’t actually connect with it all that often, but does seem to enjoy the option of smashing through doors and walls like the Kool-Aid man.

I believe I’ve also given out a couple of other weapons using the same minor weapon rules: a bow that is extra harmful against beasts, some arrows with one ability each, and Siegekeeper: a longbow that’s Magic and extra effective (Penetrating and Warning) against soldiers of their rival empire.

Overall, I’ve been pretty pleased with the minor weapon rules: keeping the players from chasing pluses allows them to use weapons that fit their styles.

I’ve also given out quite a few of the items from the minor items post:

  • I believe that most of the main PCs have, at this point, at least one reroll item. I seem to remember putting in play items of Cantrips, Hunting, Perception, and Rituals. Most of them are one charge per day, and I don’t see them get used that often (mostly because those checks are so good for the bearers that failure is unlikely).
  • An item of Warmth and one of Sustenance have come into play and are interesting curiosities, but haven’t been used to great effect yet. In particular, the Chalice of Sustenance (turns liquid put into it into a satisfying meal) has picked up a bad connotation of “Dysentery Chowder” after the bearer experimented with “I wonder if it can turn this awful sewer water into a meal?”
  • The single-charge Belt of Stoneskin has already saved the Gifted Dilettante’s life twice (though I think I need to pay more attention to making sure he declares activating it up front rather than as soon as he takes a big hit). It’s probably the MVP of items so far.
  • The rogue seems to really enjoy the Gem of Seeing in principle, but hasn’t gotten much actual use out of it.
  • They just got an item of Protection this past session which may also find a lot of use. The item of Regeneration is currently in the hands of a character that doesn’t get injured much, but she seems glad to have it in the event that she does get injured.

Ultimately, the minor items aren’t getting used nearly as much as I expected, but the players seem to enjoy receiving them and figuring out how to distribute them to take advantage of party roles and number of fortune slots for each character. I’ve begun handing out items with more than one charge per day, which may increase their overall utility.

Significant Items

The following items are named treasure, mostly with strong links to the game backstory. Like the other items, they don’t carry pluses, just modular effects. They ought to port over fairly easily as items for D&D; feel free to add the enhancement bonus of your choice in that case.

The Ancient Crown

This crown is suspiciously non-magical, particularly coming from the long-dead ruler of a magically potent ancient empire. For certain, it’s valuable enough: it would be an extremely good find for a low level party just taking it apart for its platinum and gems. As an art object, it’s worth even more.

But the real potency of the crown is in its political weight. The inheritor state of the ancient empire craves trappings of legitimacy. A long-lost crown could be enough to elevate a minor claimant to the national stage, by brokering a deal to give it to the current rulers or treating it as proof of a previously significant bloodline. Simply handing it over to a friendly noble NPC to deal with should be a major quest reward, and trying to figure out how to use it for themselves could be a campaign-spanning PC goal.

Beyond the purely mortal parties that would love to get their hands on such a valuable item, there is also the question of immortal interest. Faeries, demons, and other such beings have a great use for items that are important even if they aren’t technically magical. What rituals could they wreak upon the fabric of the empire with such a token of rulership? They’d probably go to great lengths to find out…

The Anydress

In some ways little more than a toy, this dress is woven of glamour by a skilled faerie tailor. For most fae, it’s a long-term savings on fashion. For shapeshifters and other infiltrators, however, it can be a vital tool of the trade…

When unworn, this looks like a simple shift of nice but unremarkable fabric. When donned, however, it adapts to properly fit anyone of roughly humanoid size and shape, and transfigures seamlessly into a dress appropriate for the wearer and the environment. On the streets of the merchant district, it’s fashionable but not ostentatious. In the bad part of town, it seems respectably plain. And at a royal ball, it’s festooned with gems and needlework.

Obviously, none of this lasts if separated from the item, and it can sometimes have its own whimsical interpretation of what’s appropriate rather than strictly appearing as the wearer desires. But, unlike many such faerie crafts, it’s remarkably durable and can last indefinitely without deteriorating or losing its powers.

A little known component of the dress’ whimsy is also the ability to tune into times of significance. For example, if curious adventurers were to try on an ancient crown while wearing the Anydress, it might give them a hint as to what might happen if they claimed the crown by adapting to reflect what kind of ruler they could become.

Wælcyrie’s Raiment

This suit of leathers is fitted for a woman and extremely well made. It features dozens of long, dagged strips hanging from the mantle and skirt. It is strongly magic (for any effects that interact with magic on armor), ghost touch (spectral entities cannot bypass its AC bonus), and grants +2 to saving throws the wearer makes against the attacks of any kind of undead or spirit. The strips writhe in the presence of ghosts, even unmanifested/invisible ones.

If a ghost can be convinced to voluntarily grasp one of the strips, it becomes infused into the armor. It is always considered to be in Protective stance: the ghost will interrupt and take the next hit against the wearer. Most ghosts can only take one such hit before being discorporated; more powerful ones may be able to take multiple hits, and may grant additional abilities to the wearer while infused. Discorporated ghosts seemingly pass on for good. The armor can support multiple ghosts at once; generally the one that has been infused the longest will be the one that takes hits.

Græfenrót Banner

This silken banner was seemingly wielded by the outriders of the Wælcyrie. The horses of any allies under the banner suppress their natural fear response to undead, and even mundane horses can keep up with supernatural horses within the cavalry.

When grasped by someone with authority over mindless undead, those undead will never attack allies of the bearer within sight of the banner, even in the bloodlust of battle. The bearer and all allies within sight of the banner gain +4 to saving throws against any mental (fear, charm, etc.) effects generated by undead/ghosts.

Allies slain within sight of the banner always leave a weak and somewhat confused ghost (which will usually pass on at sunrise unless infused into the Wælcyrie’s Raiment), which is generally still friendly and will continue to fight beside its original allies if it can be effectively directed. This effect may intensify other necromantic auras, causing the fallen to rise as physical undead instead of ghosts.

Come Buy, Come Buy (Part 3)

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Apparently, I had a lot more to say on this topic than I thought, and it’s taken me until the third post to get to the item list that was the core of why I started writing this series in the first place. So without further ado…

Types of Items for Sale

Trinkets

Not every vendor in the market has epic items that will change your life forever. Probably the majority of them are a lot like their mortal counterparts: selling the everyday things that visitors to the market might need. Depending on the weirdness of the average customer, this could vary from goods that wouldn’t be out of place at any mortal market to items that have similar functions but alien appearances. Mostly, for mortal visitors, this winds up basically being tchotchkes: the kind of slightly unusual token you bring back to show your neighbors that you’ve seen wonders they couldn’t even imagine.

They might even accept your own coin or unusual goods for trade, letting you dip your toe in the market without bartering anything you aren’t prepared to part with.

Snacks and Merriment

It wouldn’t be a fair without delicious food, drink, and revelry to part you from your coin. As mentioned previously, they’re probably not glamoured fruits that will make you sick to death or tricks that keep you from ever leaving faerieland. At least the reputable vendors don’t sell that kind of thing. But the foods are delicious, empty calories, often spun into daring shapes that can’t be accomplished in human ovens with mortal gravity, and the entertainments are… extremely memorable.

Many of them are even touched with magic and might give you a small bonus to something relevant for an hour or two.

Exotic Goods

Beside the trinket vendors are the merchants with the things that are truly beyond what you can get in the mortal world. They sell bolts of cloth or fully-tailored clothing better than anything you’ve ever felt, metals that mortal metallurgists wouldn’t believe could exist, gems made of captured light, and chemicals that would make a mortal alchemist or baker weep at the possibilities.

Many of these things don’t last long outside of the market, falling apart under coarse mortal hands or turning into leaves with the dawn. If you can keep them up, the maintenance requires care and/or magic almost (almost) beyond what it’s worth. But they still might be useful for as long as they last, particularly if you’ve been invited to an event and aren’t properly attired.

Some of them might last, of course, if it suits the whimsy of the GM for them to persist. In particular, raw materials might survive into the mortal world… what better way to vex mortal crafters that try and fail to work them?

Secrets

If you need to know a particularly useful and hidden bit of lore, the market is the place to ask around. As noted previously, information at the market changes hands like physical goods: you’re paying not just to know something, but to be the holder of an exclusive (or, at least, extremely limited) piece of data. You can get weaknesses of your enemies, quest hooks, lost histories, and even spells from the right vendor for the right price.

Of course, the fact that you were asking around for these things is strangely free of the limited nature of secrets… the fae might gossip about your desires to almost anyone. That might particularly include someone who desperately wanted to know a secret that you now exclusively own.

Enchantment Shifting

To mortals, “permanent” magic is static, but, to many of the fae, it’s much more fluid. Have a curse you need taken off of you? Have a magic weapon that’s not your specialized type? There may be someone that can help you move that enchantment to a home more to your liking.

Magic as Commodity

The standard consumables are just the start for the types of magic you can buy at the market. Virtually any spell could find a home in a crafted good: to the fae, it’s not enchantment, just their own particular brand of handiwork. As noted previously, these should often be much easier to get than the rules expect, because of the spoilage factor.

Memories and Talents

Of course, the core currency of the market can also be an end in itself. Need to boost an ability or skill? Someone else may have paid in the right qualities that a merchant could distill the draught for you.

These bonuses should range from the slight to the overwhelming, and from the momentary to the permanent. Maybe you only need the memories of a genius or the muscles of a troll for a moment to solve a problem, or maybe you’d like a slighter bonus for longer. The pricing for this should probably start similar to a potion that boosts an ability for a short period, adjusted for magnitude and duration, and discounted for drawbacks.

In addition to the normal drawback of spoilage, the hidden drawback of this kind of thing is the danger of taking in someone else’s identity.

Mental ability scores and skills tend to come from a constellation of memories and emotions, not all of them healthy. Is it worth it to be smart, if you suddenly have a genius’ pedantry and arrogance? Is it worth it to be incredibly charismatic and artistic, if you are suddenly wracked with depression engendered by a long-lost muse?

Physical ability scores and skills can be even more troubling, drifting into the realm of body horror. The muscles of a troll may come with many of the troll’s other physical characteristics. And sometimes the stories of being turned into frogs are just an offended merchant selling a particular distillation of a potion of agility…

Teaching a Mortal to Fish

Perhaps the most efficient purchase you can make, if you’re mystically inclined, are the secrets used to build containers and fill them with currency. With sufficient dedication, you can spend the weeks until the next fair gathering dross from your own home town out of dreams, emotions, and secrets no one will even miss, and save up for something at no cost to your own identity. For the patient and industrious, it’s the best investment you could make.

Of course, some people say that many fae were once mortal practitioners with a greed for faerie things and the right start down the slippery slope…

Come Buy, Come Buy (Part 2)

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Last week, I talked about the overall themes and possibility space of market items, and this week I’ll delve more into mechanics.

The Economy of the Market

While it may move away from keeping the workings of the market seeming totally alien, it does help to have some kind of rational economic basis in your head as a GM. The fae merchants absolutely haggle, and some things may be arbitrarily expensive or cheap as a way of modeling alien values, but this is theoretically still a place where fae merchants do what mortal merchants do: sell items for a price that covers their expenses plus profits. Thus, having some kind of math in the background gains in verisimilitude what it loses in inscrutability. You don’t want the players getting pissed off that everything happens to cost either a negligible amount or slightly more than the most they intended to pay. Sometimes, they should just be able to buy the thing with the items of currency they’ve collected.

These items of currency are what I find interesting. This is another area where I feel like more of a mechanic provides a big gain in verisimilitude. If even the least fae merchant can, at a whim, transform core pieces of a person into coin, why are they wasting their time doing so with peasants rather than kings? Instead, I postulate the following (tweak for the nature of the fae and mechanics in your own campaign):

  • Many fae, and some mortals, can learn various tricks to see and touch the stuff of mortal identity: your dreams are real to them, your secrets have a presence, and your personal traits linger like a cloud around you flickering with signifiers. This can give them an uncanny insight into your nature, for the things you believe are hidden within the darkness of your skull are plain to see for those that know how to interpret them. More importantly, with the right tools and right circumstances, seeing someone’s trappings is just the first step of taking them.
  • These tools are made through ritual and expense, from rare material and great skill. The least fae can weave webs to hold nightmares, prepare flasks to decant lesser memories, and bake a juicy secret into a pie. Stronger fae can make much more potent containers, which can hold trappings of much greater value. And even the least fae can fill a container given by a greater crafter.

Ultimately, I divide the currency of the fae into two rough categories:

  • Dross items have purchasing power similar to a gold piece or two (or silver for games like Beyond the Wall that have more conservative adventuring economies): each one was basically a day’s work for a lesser fae to craft and fill with a trapping. They can only hold the most minor of signifiers: stolen nightmares, captured applause, the least of secrets, and pieces of your competency easily given and hardly missed. They’re the pennies of the fae world, used for small purchases and sweetening a deal, but it’s somewhat gauche to try to make a big purchase with a lot of them.
  • Unique items were made with much more expensive and time-consuming rituals to hold trappings of real significance. Each has its own story, and, once filled, mutates from its original raw form into something fitting the significant piece of identity stored inside. Each has a base value that may change based on whether the alien needs of a particular fae values that trapping for some inscrutable purpose beyond use as a currency. After all, these things aren’t just a fun version of coin: they have value because some faerie, somewhere, has a real use for them. And if you want them back, you’d best find them before they reach their final buyer.

What this means is that lesser fae probably can’t buy your youth, your health, your love’s affection, or any other things of real value to you, unless they’re shiftily working as a front-fae for a much more powerful buyer that wishes to remain unnamed. Once you start asking what of yourself you can give up for that extremely pricey item, many fae merchants may have to direct you to a more powerful trader who has the requisite container to bottle what you’re selling.

This should really give you some time to rethink the trade you’re trying to make.

Another thing to keep in mind about the fae economy is that it has its own peculiar form of DRM: mortals are used to information being easily copied, so might think nothing of sharing a secret or a memory. Most of the time, though, this is an exclusive deal: if you trade in information, you no longer have it yourself. The lesser fae make a point of only trading for data you haven’t “backed up” by sharing with someone else, so when you forget it you can’t easily get it back. The more powerful traders can absorb information from everywhere else it exists, be it minds or writing, as long as it was actually yours to trade.

So how much can you actually get by shaving off pieces of your character’s identity?

As a core rule, trades should be inherently lossy: the merchant has to pay for market overhead and ritual components, at least. Even with the best haggling roll, if you think you’re getting an even swap (say, two points of one ability score for two points of another), you’re probably missing something. It’s more likely that even the best deals will leave you over 20% in the hole when comparing apples-to-apples (e.g., trade five points of ability scores for four).

Dross should be pretty easy to come by, and only start to have major effects if the characters try to create a lot of it from their identities in a very short period. The market’s no fun if you have to worry about the long-term negative effects of minor trades. By all means be very descriptive about the lost memories, emotions, and other personal qualities spun into dross, but they probably shouldn’t have any real, long-term mechanical effect on the character (perhaps some small penalties in the short term).

Unique items, however, should quickly transition into dear purchases. Brandes is hesitant to assess permanent ability score penalties, but I think they’re on the table as long as the currency you buy with them can be used to get something whose utility closely balances the regret at permanent lost character potency (possibly just through being something otherwise unavailable through prescribed system means). In 5e or other games with systematized personality traits/aspects, those are also good to spend. Skills/skill points can go as well. Secrets are good to use if they have real in-campaign utility (e.g., the secret way into your stronghold, your own true name or that of a powerful entity, etc.). Spellcasters can give up learned spells.

And, of course, “permanent” may be relative. Most of the boosts you can buy in the market are fleeting, so actual mechanical stat penalties may last just long enough to be super annoying and then gradually recover (as you make new memories/accrue replacement identity signifiers).

Like with the nature of items, the nature of fae currency is figuring out how to get player characters to do something the characters might regret forever, but which doesn’t actually permanently ruin the players’ fun. A lot of it will come down to your own players’ tolerances for roleplayed misery.

Come Buy, Come Buy (Part 1)

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My Beyond the Wall players, as mentioned in a prior post, finally decided they had enough of a handle on the campaign world to go into the Hedge searching for the market they’d learned of from a pack of defeated goblins. Their treasure from that encounter was a chest of stolen nightmares: clearly only the kind of thing human adventurers are going to get much use out of if they can find the place where commerce of that type happens. This meant I needed to think out exactly how I wanted the goblin market (really more of a faerie market in general) to work.

I’d done some improvisation on this score using Don’t Rest Your Head’s bazaar, which functions quite similarly. But what works for an extremely rules-light game doesn’t work as well for games like D&D that have a lot of assumptions built into player access to items and magic. Brandes has articles on goblin markets in general and ideas for what to find there, and you should read both of those articles before this one to be working from the same playbook I am as to what I still felt like I needed to create.

Themes of a Faerie Market

While I typically prefer the term “Goblin Market,” the poem with which that term is most linked is not exactly what I’m talking about (though well could be the pastime of the less savory merchants when they’re not at the big show). I tend to think more of the markets of Stardust and Hellboy II: massive gatherings of strange merchants with exotic wares, where you might wind up paying in coin you didn’t know you possessed.

In this kind of market, there can certainly be the wicked danger proposed by the poem, if your game wants to emphasize the Victorian morality involved. But I think you’ll often get more out of it by playing a bit more fairly with the players: purchases aren’t an inherently bad idea, but can still be extremely risky if you don’t know what you’re getting or spending. This is a fully functioning economy, just using rules that may defy the PCs’ intuitions from more mundane markets.

For my own purposes, I think the major themes to keep in mind when running such a place are wonder, consequences, and identity.

  • Wonder: At its core, visiting such a market is an opportunity to inject wonder into a game. Beings normally only encountered in frightening combats, legends, and as historical remnants are packed into a small space and going about their own personal shopping trips. You get to see them up close and may not even have to fight them. They may trade with you. This may be your best opportunity to gain information from primary sources, if you can ask the right questions. And it may be your opportunity to piss off a huge swath of powerful entities all at once, if you’re not careful.
  • Consequences: While the market may not inevitably be that of Rosetti’s goblins, tricking you into trading that which is most important for pretty poison, such an outcome is not off the table. Some merchants will outright try to cheat you, and even the “honest” ones are happy to take advantage of your ignorance to get a better deal for themselves. In particular, if you are rude or brash, you are unlikely to profit. If it looks like you got an excellent deal, far better than what you expected, there are probably hidden consequences. And, with a handshake bargain, there’s not even any fine print to read.
  • Identity: One of the classic things the market trades in is trappings of identity. You can pay with memories, beauty, youth, vigor, secrets, and many other types of coin that you didn’t even know were available to spend. The consequences are usually smaller but more obvious than a classic devil’s bargain for your soul: you get to spend the rest of your life understanding something about yourself that you didn’t realize was essential until it was gone. If you’re lucky, you can figure out how to buy it back. From the other side of the deal, what does it mean to profit from the trappings of someone else’s identity? Any boost you purchase may be powered by an essential trait of another person, taken into yourself.

The Nature of Market Items

The interesting thing about the market is the juxtaposition of seemingly fabulously powerful magics with an implied hidden drawback. Items that are normally the trappings of epic adventurers seem to be available for quite reasonable prices, even once you’ve gotten a handle on the true meaning of fae prices. How do you put such things into the game without breaking the itemization math upon which D&D is based?

I think the key is to keep most purchases fragile, fleeting, evanescent, and/or ephemeral. Not only should they mostly be consumables (as Brandes notes), they should defy the traditional D&D logic of consumables by including spoilage. In my experience, potions, scrolls, and charged items accumulate, becoming dangerous to game balance in their ability to be saved until their moment of greatest advantage. Part of their costing is based on being a reserve spell when the math said you should be out of daily resources. Making fae purchases into something that must be used now, or at least soon, can go a long way toward eliminating worries about whether they’re too cheap. Especially if the fae traders are on a schedule that doesn’t suit the whims of the PCs, it’s pretty easy to give out items that are lots of fun to use, but which won’t be available to wreck scenarios set a few days or weeks later.

Also, as noted under themes, items purchased from the fae are likely to have hidden drawbacks, not the least of which is being spun from the trappings of someone else’s identity. What shortcuts did the fae crafter take to make something so powerful that can be sold so cheaply? Does its core still carry the intentions of its originator, making it unexpectedly hard to use? Will it, even in the best case scenario, begin to warp your own identity through leakage or as a core principle of how it works?

If you can get your players into a deep anxiety about whether they were cheated or got a fabulous deal, and whether they can risk using this thing vs. risking letting it expire, you’ve properly created the item.

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